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September 2002 Dr. Vern

Posted in Features on September 1, 2002
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Contributors: Dr. Vern

Moab, Black Bear Pass, The Rubicon, Yellowstone...wait-how did that last one make it on a list of great places to take a Jeep? In a Griswaldesque quest, Yellowstone was our destination on a long camping trip with our trusty CJ-2A. Mindful that my children will someday be choosing my nursing home, it seemed like a good idea to leave them with a few pleasant childhood memories. Hopefully this will counteract their otherwise vivid images of me as a garage-dwelling maniac. In addition, it will soften the blow when they learn their college funds were spent on Jeep parts instead.

Lest you think I'm a masochist, we opted to tow the Jeep behind our ever-shrinking pickup camper for the 2,000-plus-mile roundtrip. I like driving the Jeep but have a vested interest in staying married. And with a top speed barely pushing 50 mph, three weeks of vacation would not be nearly enough.

The comfort of an air-conditioned pickup was alluring, but that is only part of the reason we didn't drive the Jeep. Have you ever tried to load camping supplies into a Jeep? The typical Jeep can carry enough gear for a trip of approximately 45 minutes duration. (Quit smirking, all you CJ-6 and Scrambler owners.) Any expedition longer than that will encounter a sad lack of storage space. To haul enough supplies, you'd have to leave behind any passengers and their stuff. If you have an open mind, there is a simple way to carry both friends and food, although technically not at the same time. But due to a lack of good cookbooks and some moral qualms, most people aren't comfortable with cannibalism.

None of that is an issue if you tow your Jeep behind a camper full of macaroni and cheese. (Little boxes in the cupboards, mind you, not a camper literally full of the cooked variety.) Once loaded to the gills (Still talking about the camper, not us) we set out for Yellowstone. One important detail has changed since the childhood trip that I still remember vividly. You won't see bears at every corner like so many years ago. If your wife is fearful of becoming a bear snack, don't mention how the bears used to rummage through the campgrounds at night. That would only serve to make her afraid.

Have no fear, for there is a foolproof method to be safe from a midnight bear attack anywhere you camp. How do you make sure the bear avoids you while looking for food? Make sure he will find something else with a much stronger scent first. A marauding bear will follow the gamiest smell he can find. That's right, I've finally found a good use for hippies. When choosing a campsite, pick one a moderate distance away, preferably upwind. You'll be safe as the bear follows his nose. He'll soon be rooting around the old school bus with the tie-dye curtains.

Clarification: Such a fine periodical as Jp Magazine will be bombarded with complaints about this last paragraph. I've inferred that hippies and smelly people are one and the same. If you smell bad, I did not mean to imply that you are a hippie. Please accept my sincere apologies.

Forgive me for getting a bit off track, as I intended to elaborate on the joys of an open Jeep in such a beautiful place as Yellowstone. We soon learned that a flat fender draws a big crowd in a setting such as a National Park. People were staring at us every place we visited. As we were all fully dressed and conformed to most social norms, I can only assume our shiny green CJ-2A was the main attraction.

And what a draw the Jeep was. There was a large contingent of Harleys in the park but they didn't garner much attention. Anybody with a mid-life crisis and enough cash can drive away from a dealership with a new motorcycle. Driving an old Willys, well, that's a pretty exclusive club.

The fun we had with our Jeep made my wife forget all about the black hole it left in our bank account. Such a magical trip reinforced my kids' opinion of me as Super Hero Dad. That will change in a few years when they become teenagers, but I can wait. Even the dog was thrilled, her suburban nose tantalized by the wild scent of deer, bison, elk, and hippies.

Clarification #2: At this point, my editor put a halt to the column. A poignant tale about a family Jeep trip degenerated into cheap jokes about hippies. The editor is sending me to cultural sensitivity training at Hippies Are People, Too, Inc. Class attendance is mandated, but I draw the line at participating in the Jane Fonda Appreciation Day Parade.-Dr. Vern

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